Letter to the editor: A much worse threat looms
To the editor:
We have just seen the effects of poor planning in Texas. Safeguards against winter storms were left out because they don’t happen too often.
There is a much worse global event, a solar storm, that doesn’t happen often. But it will. If we are unprotected, we could see a monthslong power outage and destruction of much of our infrastructure. No electricity, no credit card or banking usage, no gas pumps, no food delivery.
Large storms on the sun happen from time to time. We don’t know exactly how often, but the last really big one hit the Earth in 1859. Induced electric currents in telegraph wires set fires in offices in England. In the modern era, every electric transmission wire becomes a source of high voltage surge. Massive damage occurs, including to the transformers that step down voltages.
It is not too difficult to protect against the worst effects. Being able to shut off the power grid with 18 hours notice and put breaks in the lines every few miles would do a great deal. Our satellites, including the ones that deal with banking transactions and GPS locations, would have to be replaced.
Last year, after years of delay, Congress passed some legislation mandating that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA take some responsibility to track the threat. But the push behind this is not very strong, what with the pandemic, winter storm, economic crisis, etc. But it will happen.
Adrian L. Melott,